A quiet – or a quietus, as a friend from Boston might put it – reigns over the architectural landscape in Providence. Nobody is certain whether the city’s smackdown of the proposed Fane tower design trumps the authority of the state to push it forward in the face of widespread public opposition.
Some teapot tempests are making small waves. Chairwoman Kristi Gelnett of the Downtown Design Review Committee, which issued the latest Fane rebuke, lives in Warren, not Providence. An ugly modernist cliché has been proposed for a new state archives right across Smith Street from the State House. It was designed, coincidentally, by the firm DBVW, where Gelnett has her day job. The fate of the Beresford-Nicholson mansion at 288 Blackstone Boulevard seems to have been secured with the advent of a new buyer, but the developers who hope to subdivide the rest of the estate have not gone away, so the enchanting caretaker’s cottage remains at risk.
A bigger tempest has arisen, however, following the rejection of the Fane tower by the DDRC and its DBVW chair. One of developer Jason Fane’s lapdogs, Rhode Island Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, has introduced a bill to prevent municipalities from having a say in projects on 200 or more acres of state land – not just on the I-195 corridor, but in every one of Rhode Island’s cities and town.
That’s a breathtaking assault on citizens’ rights, and it has been covered in the media, but General Assembly members have not exactly leaped to their feet to oppose the measure, which is designed to muzzle each of their constituencies. It seems like “inside baseball” stuff, and is being defended as “streamlining” the process of development. Huh? That’s like streamlining the process of getting dressed by making it illegal to put your pants on.
Fortunately, my state senator, Gayle Goldin, of Providence, has shown an admirable willingness to discuss her stand on the issue. She told me that she has “taken her constituents’ concerns to the Senate president.” Good! When I pressed her further, she said she “opposes it as it stands now.”
Now that Senator Goldin has expressed her doubts about that legislation, maybe other legislators will follow her lead, oppose the bill, and eventually provide it, along with the Fane tower, with a well-deserved quietus, or death, as the word was used by Shakespeare in Hamlet.